Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ministerial Education

Good morning God,
What do you need your ministers to know in the 21st century?
I ask because its the one question we seem reluctant as a Church to really engage with.
We will argue interminably about our buildings - which College to keep open, how many students to send them, what subsidy they will receive etc etc. but not about what we want to have happen in them.
We seem to make the same assumption that so many people make about Churches.
All you need to do to be a Christian is go to Church
All you need to do to become a minister is go to college
It's the building that's important - not what goes on it it - obviously!

Meanwhile, your people suffer because ministers are ill equipped to meet their needs, not because we don't have the resources - we do, we are embarrassingly rich in resources, what we don't have (yet) is a coherent picture of what we need to be teaching - and why.

Wesley's first Conference asked
What to teach. How to teach and What to do...
not where to teach, how many to teach and what to do about the cost of it all!

In my opinion, the most important debate in our Church this year on ministerial training has already happened - and most people missed its significance. (which speaks volumes!)
The Ministries, Learning and Development report broke new ground by wanting to look beyond what we do with our buildings, libraries, theological educators, trainers etc and actually explore what will be taught. The new 'Ministries Committee' which Conference approved yesterday will have responsibility:-

'for the general oversight of the learning infrastructure and learning programmes'


A gigantic step forward:
I can look forward to the day when we as a Conference can get excited again about the curriculum of what is taught in our colleges: The time is surely coming when we will once again focus our attention on how to communicate the gospel and how best to serve the present age, rather than how many bricks we need, or where best to store a library.

Hats off to the Discipleship and Ministry team - for a job well done.


  1. Again I absolutely agree with you. I was astounded during my time at Wesely when I asked JP what the Methodist Church required as training for ministers and was told "nothing". I frequently voiced my opinion that I was not being taught what I needed to know (although a theological background is important its not all that is needed). Now in circuit my view on that is confirmed:- we need to be taught how to lead churches away from constant focus on buildings, fixtures, fittings, jam sales and coffee mornings (which they think are out reach but are really social meetings) to reach out into their communities with the gospel. How to engage with people who know nothing of the gospel message (ie. getting on for 80% of the population); how to find new ways of being church without throwing away whats best of the old (ie. sometimes how to rediscover traditional Methodist practices like class meetings); and how to change expectations of what a minister should be doing with their time.

  2. In my "new position" as a hospital Chaplain, I see the effects that bad theology has on folk as they face crises in their lives. At the very worse end of the spectrum, people end up losing their faith.

    Whilst I totally agree that the church has to learn to reach out beyond its own walls, I also think that ministers need to know theology. Along with good and great theologians, Methodism also has a strong strand running through of it "We don't need to know anything about theology, the only thing that matters is passion for Christ." I completely disagree with this strand. People desperately need good theology, but they need it to be applicable to real life as well. After we've evangelised an individual, where do they go from there if we don't have "spiritual meat"?